Speech by His Excellency Hu Jintao, Vice President of the People's Republic of China.
May 1, 2002
Ladies and Gentleman,
It gives me great pleasure to come across the Pacific Ocean to the United States of America for an official visit at the invitation of Vice President Cheney.
I wish to express my heartfelt thanks to the National Committee on US-China Relations, America-China Forum, Asia Society, Committee of 100, Council on Foreign Relations, US Chamber of Commerce, US-China Business Council and US-China Policy Foundation for hosting this dinner and giving me an opportunity to meet with old and new friends present here. Over the years, you have worked tirelessly to enhance the mutual understanding between the Chinese and American peoples and promote the development of China-US relations. I salute all of you for your commendable efforts.
For the past few days, I have visited Hawaii, New York and Washington, D.C. I have had candid and constructive dialogues with President Bush, Vice President Cheney and other US leaders on bilateral relations and issues of mutual interest and met with people from various circles as well. I have been deeply impressed by what I have seen and heard. I have a strong feeling that although China and the US differ in historical background and cultural tradition, the two peoples are eager to see the relationship grow.
China needs to deepen its understanding of the US, so does the US of China. Enhanced understanding and trust between the two sides will help boost healthy growth of bilateral relations. I would like to take this opportunity to share with you some information about China's reform, opening-up and modernization program.
In the late 1970s, the late Mr. Deng Xiaoping made the strategic decision to focus on economic development and adopt the reform and opening-up policy, thus turning over a new page in China's modernization program. The past two decades and more have witnessed a sustained, rapid and sound growth of the national economy of China and a marked improvement of its overall national strength. With the average annual growth rate standing at 9.4%, China's GDP reached US$1.16 trillion in 2001, leaping to the sixth place in the world. Economic restructuring has continued to deepen. The socialist market economy has been initially put in place, and a world-oriented open economy has taken shape by and large. The total volume of imports and exports exceeded US$500 billion in 2001. China comes first among the developing countries in terms of attracting foreign direct investment for nine years running. The Chinese people are living much better nowadays. Earnings of urban and rural residents have increased by three and four times respectively. The number of rural poor has gone down from 250 million to 30 million.
While pressing ahead with economic development, the Chinese Government has spared no effort to strengthen the practice of democracy while safeguarding and developing the rights of its citizens. Over the past 20 years, people's rights to have democratic election, decision-making, management and supervision have been further expanded. The grassroots direct elections in rural areas have produced good results. A new type of ethnic relations of equality, solidarity and mutual assistance has kept developing. The languages, cultures and customs of all ethnic groups are fully respected. The citizens' freedom of religious belief and normal religious activities are protected by law. At present, China has more than 100 million believers in different religions. There are nearly 90,000 religious sites and over 3,000 religious groups across the country. Indeed, one must say that it has been no easy job for a big developing country like China with a population of nearly 1.3 billion to have so considerably improved its human rights situation in such a short period of time.
We in China are working hard to build up a strong, prosperous, democratic and culturally advanced modern socialist country. We need an international environment of lasting peace, and we long for living harmoniously with all countries of the world. The aim of China's foreign policy is to safeguard world peace and spur common development. China adheres to the independent foreign policy of peace and actively develops friendly relations and cooperation with all countries on the basis of such basic principles as mutual respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity, mutual non-interference in each other's internal affairs, equality and mutual benefit. China is playing a positive and constructive role in international and regional affairs.
China pursues a defensive national defense policy and has never taken part in arms race. Its defense expenditure is the lowest among all the big nations. It has downsized its armed forces by 1.5 million of its own accord. As a nuclear state, it has always stood for the complete prohibition and thorough destruction of the nuclear weapons. As early as the 1960s, China made a unilateral commitment not to be the first to use nuclear weapons and not to use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear weapon states and nuclear-free zones.
China's development and progress have brought happiness to the Chinese people and also lent a powerful push to the cause of peace and development in the Asia-Pacific region and indeed the world at large.